Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

Anne Rice is the author of 31 books.  She will probably always be best known for her Vampire Chronicles series, but this time out she tackles the legend of the werewolf in "The Wolf Gift."  The basic premise of the book is pretty straightforward.  A young reporter on assignment from the San Francisco Observer visits a grand mansion set amongst a towering redwood forest.  That night he is violently attacked and bitten by a beast he cannot see.  This sets in motion a transformation...or as Anne refers to it the 'wolf gift'.

The rest of the book deals with this terrifying, yet seductive, transformation, as the young man is torn between embracing who he is evolving into or fearing what he will become.  And here is where Anne's extraordinary gift as a writer really shines.  She always does a tremendous amount of research for her books and isn't afraid to wade into some pretty deep philosophical and theological waters in her exploration of this cosmology she has created and in her attempt to find her characters a place in it.  And you can pretty much forget most of the werewolf lore you may have absorbed from current werewolf novels or movies, because Anne has created her own history as a backdrop for this story.   

The classic theme of good versus evil is explored here.  How does one know true evil? Can something seen as evil be a servant of good? She refers to the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (a french philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist) as she explores what we believe about right and wrong, the existence of God, and our search for redemption.  If you are looking for dramatic tension or fast pacing, you will be disappointed.  But if you are looking for a read that will fire your imagination and catch you up in religious and philosophical pondering, then you'll probably like this good gothic tale.  And Anne's descriptive writing style is always a plus.  She reminds me of Poe or Tolkien in her descriptive power, which may bore some people, but I always find quite charming.  She has certainly left the door open for possible sequels, so this may be the start of a new series for her. In any case, I found it an interesting addition to the genre.   

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

The Butterfly's Daughter is a fast, fun read.  But what makes it especially enjoyable, is the backdrop of the story of the remarkable migration of the Monarch butterfly.  Each chapter starts out telling us a little bit about this phenomenal annual migration, and it is the emotional touchstone for the journey the women in the book undertake.  Luz Avilla's grandmother, the local butterfly lady, purchases an old, orange VW bug for a road grip home to Mexico.  When she dies, unexpectedly, Luz is inspired to take her grandmother's ashes home.  This story is about family, the fragility of relationships, and having the courage to embrace change.  A wonderful story of transformation and growth.      
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